Tag Archive for flip

Why Not Give Away Flip?

“Cisco has to do things fast. Selling Flip could take too much time.”
– Brent Bracelin, Pacific Crest Securities (source)

Perhaps that explains why a beloved consumer and classroom device is being terminated by Cisco Systems, which bought Flip in 2009. Our school must own 30 Flip video cameras, between a loaner box in IT and individual cameras scattered about teacher offices. We will still see them for years, likely. Nothing is simpler than a big red button to capture video.

Cisco is not doing such a good job of reputation management in schools. First, institutions that use Cisco Clean Access associate the Cisco logo with blocking them from the network. Now, Cisco has terminated a much-used school device.

We were planning to purchase another box of Flip cameras this summer. What will replace them? We could spend more and get a box of iPod Touches instead. They shoot decent video and could also do so much more. However, we would lose the simplicity of dedicated devices and would have to manage a pile of connection cables.

Preferably, another small video camera company will emerge as a decent replacement, or by some change of fortune, Flip will find a way to stick around.

Sharing 340 Flip videos?

I am spending a little bit of time trying to find a way to convert Flip video files into QuickTime or FLV format for posting on our web sites. This is not really a how-to guide, but rather a snapshot into my (limited) progress with this task at this moment in time. Perhaps I will make more progress later, or one of you fine readers will post a comment detailing a more helpful solution!

Our seniors spent a morning at the pumpkin patch with their first grade buddies and took twelve Flip Mino video cameras with them. They captured 340 video segments!

video files

How may I produce one or more useful movies from these using the least possible effort? I don’t want to simply post the videos directly to a site like YouTube, because some of the content is likely to be private or exceed their posting limits. I also don’t want to require teachers to create YouTube accounts just to facilitate this conversion process.

Flip records in AVI format using 3ivx compression. If we go to QuickTime, we will want to convert into MOV format using H.264 compression. If we choose Flash video, then we will convert into FLV format (what does Adobe call their compression codec?).

Two issues are making this process more difficult for video than for audio. For one, Adobe and Apple can’t seem to get along — neither QuickTime nor iMovie has a FLV export feature, and I’m not about to insist that all of our teachers and students own a full copy of Flash to do this work. While some people suggest FilmRedux (formerly VisualHub) or FFMpegX, I have found these applications either too arcane for the average user or incompatible with either the import or export portions of this process. Is it possible that VisualHub used to have FLV export, but the SourceForge hosted version lacks that component?

QTAmateur
QT Amateur (converted files but can’t handle nested folders)

FilmRedux
FilmRedux (wouldn’t read 3ivx AVI or m4v files)

FFMPEGX
FFMPEGX (too many dependencies to foist on our users)

iMovie
iMovie (successfully reads 3ivx files, allowing users to edit first)

QTAmateur looked to be a good option to batch convert the files into a usable format before starting editing work, but then I found that it took a long time to convert files in QuickTime format, and QTAmateur was not able to reach into subfolders to convert files located in there. Since I have twelve cameras, many files have the same name and must be stored in subfolders as a result.

Good news: iMovie ’08 can use the video files straight from the Flip camera, once I have installed the 3ivx decoder that comes with the Flip (the software is stored within the camera memory). Given this, it may work best to do all of the clip selection and editing work in iMovie and postpone the task of format conversion to the end. This way, we are applying the time-intensive task of format conversion to the shortest length and fewest possible number of clips.

It will then be simple for a teacher or student to use iMovie’s built-in Share tools to export to QuickTime, YouTube, or iPhone.

share menu

What about posting a FLV file to one’s own web site? I don’t see a straightforward way to do this that would be easy for other users to follow. If it has become difficult to build FLV conversion into desktop software, then let’s push that task to the web site software, as YouTube does. This way, we won’t burden users with that problem.

Drupal may fulfill the role of YouTube in this case. I will have to remind myself what modules provide on-the-fly conversion of uploaded files to FLV (Video, FlashVideo, FFMPEG wrapper, what others?).

Windows users may have more options.

Flip Mino Reviewed

The Flip Mino has the potential to be useful in our school, especially for students creating work for immediate review or sharing. The Flip seems highly compatible with efforts to encourage student construction of knowledge, visual literacy, and multiple forms of representation. I can see teachers and students using these devices to practice foreign language recitation, interview subjects for a variety of purposes, and gather material for oral history projects. I can imagine huge impact during our international trips. With a portable digital video recorder, students could turn their view outward, collecting sounds, scenes, and interviewing people to include in a presentation or learning portfolio upon their return. Multimedia art students should have a blast with the devices.

The device is small enough to take along anywhere and starts up quickly. User controls are simple, especially the big red record button in the middle. The price ($145 at Amazon) is twice that of a small digital audio recorder, about right in my opinion to gain video in such a small device.

The Flip has the potential to remove barriers to using video in classes, as the Olympus WSM-300 did for us with audio this past year. The relatively low cost makes it possible to put devices in the hands of students more often.

Flip in hand

The small size makes it easy to carry a device off-site or package a class set. You can keep the camera on you more often, since it slips into a pocket.

Flip connected

One huge key is the USB mass storage feature. Like the Olympus audio recorders, USB connectivity is built into the device. This eliminates the most time-consuming step in conventional video capture — transferring footage from camera to computer. Now, one can transfer footage as a simple file copy or using The Flip’s proprietary software. Each Flip comes with its own software installer on the device. If you want more control and flexibility, open the INSTALL folder and run the 3ivx installer. You will gain the ability for QuickTime Player (Mac) to open these compressed AVI files. An open-source decoder also exists.

In my one-day test, 2GB storage was more than adequate. I shot here and there during a three hour visit to the amusement park — 25 short clips in total — and only used 500MB.

For some reason, converting the files from compressed AVI to MOV. I am not sure whether the problem lies in the AVI conversion, the special compressed format that the Flip uses, or my slow G4 Mac!

The Flip software offers buttons to quickly post video to YouTube and other video web sites. I haven’t yet tried them, but this could be a way to quickly get a movie into FLV format for the web.

For a $170 video recorder, the quality is excellent. A couple of weak points are the audio levels and zoom. In my single day of use, I found the audio pickup a tad weak, though it should be fine for interviews and other classroom applications. I also found the image too fuzzy at 4x zoom — it may be digitally enhanced.

I wish that the Flip had multiple folders for organizing stored clips, in the manner that the Olympus digital audio recorders do. Then, two students could share one device but keep their work separate.

Flip makes less expensive video recording devices, but only the Mino has a rechargeable battery. I would like to avoid the impact of disposable batteries, even though a dead rechargeable device will then be useless for the remainder of that period. Now I need to seek a device to charge a dozen USB devices at once.

How long before this level of video recording is a standard feature on cell phones, in the way that still cameras have recently become?

Here is a sample I shot today at full size and converted from 3IVX to QuickTime H.264 at 1000kb/s in order to retain as much as possible the quality of the original shot. Or, you can download the 3ivx version directly.